RR LogoJacqui Naylor Is A Lucky Girl

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Singer – Songwriter Jacqui Naylor’s new album may be titled Lucky Girl, but we are the lucky men and women who have the opportunity to enjoy another very good recording from Jacqui Naylor, as she collaborates again with multi-instrumentalist and co-writer - husband Art Khu. The duo became known a few years ago for their smash-ups and as Ms. Naylor explained during a previous interview with Riveting Riffs Magazine, “The band plays the groove of one tune, while I am singing a whole other song.” This album features six smash-ups, “”The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” the Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini song classic “Moon River,” Earl Brent and Matt Dennis’ “Angel Eyes,” “Close The Door,” penned by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” (Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin).  It is however Jacqui Naylor and Art Khu’s original songs that will create a buzz among music fans.

Recently, Riveting Riffs Magazine, caught up with Jacqui Naylor in her west coast home, as she talked about her fabulous new album, one that opens with the title track “Lucky Girl,” which sets the tone for the rest of this musical journey.

Ms. Naylor acknowledges that Lucky Girl may be her most personal album to date, “I think that the album Shelter was very personal at that time in my life and it was the first album that I did when I wrote songs and I wrote them with Art (Khu) and that started that whole process. I think that Lucky Girl is another personal leap.”

“This album has taken our songwriting to another level and I feel that now we have been writing together since 2002 and I feel that our writing has solidified in a lot of ways together and in a way that it hadn’t before. I do feel that this is our best songwriting. Before Art would write the music and I would write the lyrics and through the years it has been when I have written the melody and lyrics and he would come to me sometimes with melody and groove and then I wrote the lyrics, so it was a little bit of a meld going on with those things. Those real groove oriented tunes are driven very much by what Art is doing and then I tweaked the melody a little bit and tweaked the lyrics. I am really a happy person right now and I feel that Art and I are really happy together, with our writing and as a couple. That is really reflected in what you are hearing in the music. As well as better songwriting, they are positive tunes that hopefully encourage people,” she says.

The song “Lucky Girl,” is introduced by some excellent drumming courtesy of Josh Jones, while he gives his toms and snare a workout, while Art Khu backs Jacqui Naylor’s vocals with some spellbinding playing on the Hammond B3 organ. The message is, you can lose your money and other material things, but if you have friends that you can really count on and if you continue to pursue your dreams, you are “a lucky girl.” Well unless you are a guy of course. Jacqui Naylor’s phrasing reflects the spirit of the song, while she sings about having a home filled with love and laughter.  

“Normally, I release an album every year or every year and one-half, sometimes two years, but it was 2008 when we released the last album and a lot of things happened in those three years. Last year was a hard year, as I lost my dad and there was a lot of stuff going on that put this album off. I am happy that we did and that we took the time. We had a lot to choose from, which again is because we took the time. There are a couple of songs on (the album) that are not really positive. “It Was Supposed To Work Out,” is a little bit sad, but still it has a bit of a happy melody,” says Ms. Naylor.jacqui naylor photo 2Prior to deciding on the songs that would be included on the album, Jacqui Naylor held what she refers to as a listening event at Salle Pianos in San Francisco, located just a couple of blocks from where Ms. Naylor lives. About eighty people, comprised of close friends and some fans attended and they were asked to rate the songs that were played, while making notes about each one. From those notes and scores, fifteen songs were selected to appear on Lucky Girl. The songs that appear as the earlier tracks on the album were, in most cases the ones that received the highest marks.

“I felt very thankful to be able to do that. I felt even better about the material. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t biased or something. (Other people) got to be a part of it and they (fans) are why I get to do what I do,” she says.

The second song “Nothing Could Be Better Than You,” is about having that one true friend, your best friend to whom you can go with anything and who is there for you in all that you do. It is about mutual respect.  For those of us who know Jacqui Naylor and Art Khu, it is easy to detect that this song flows straight from their hearts. Crystal Monee Hall’s background vocals add soul.  

“You definitely understand my heart and where I am coming from. I love Gospel music and I sung a Gospel song at my father’s (funeral) service. I used to sing in a Gospel choir and a lot of those songs that I loved are in me. They have a lot to do with what I sound like. I rarely sing a Gospel song at a concert, but I started doing that since his death. Then I decided that I wanted to write a Gospel song, in part, because I wanted to write a song that was Gospel flavored, but that was really respectful of what anyone might believe in or who they might love or who they might turn to when they feel they might need support or help in their life.  I told Art that I wanted to write a Buddhist Gospel song and Art said how about “Nothing Could Make Me Happier Than You.” I thought that was very funny, like the Dali Lama goes to order one of everything from the hotdog cart that kind of thing. I thought that is pretty cool. I thought “Nothing Could Be Better Than You,” could really be for everyone. I have been singing it on the road for a couple of months and we sung it at that concert and people really dug it, which made me feel happy. I do think that we need to respect one another and even though I am a very strong Buddhist, I don’t believe that everybody needs to become a Buddhist, but I do think that we all need to respect one another and however we believe,” says Jacqui Naylor.

As for Crystal Monee Hall’s contributing vocals on “Nothing Could Be Better Than You,” she was suggested by Jon Evans, Ms. Naylor’s bass player. “I trust him so much I just let him call whoever he thought was appropriate. She walked in and she did all the background parts, all those different octaves and things. She was only there for about an hour. She did each layer maybe once or twice. There are many layers on there, so it sounds like a choir with her,” she recalls.

Throughout this album, Jacqui Naylor is accompanied by superb musicians, Jon Evans (bass, percussion and lap steel), Josh Jones (drums), Chloe Scott (flute) and Art Khu (Hammond B3, piano, Rhodes and guitars). Alison Evans also contributes background vocals on “Dreamin’ Prayin’ Wishin’.” 

“I love the B3 and Art loves the B3. With the Gospel flavor on there and with (songs like) “Moon River,” and in a few other spots, in particular it lends to that Gospel feel. It also (provides) great layering. Art also solos really great on it. It is the same with those swing tunes, it kind of made it, I don’t want to say contemporary necessarily, but of a certain groovy era. It sounds earthy to me. There is something very grounded sounding and groovy about the B3 to my ear, in terms of swing stuff. In particular we added it in some of those swing tunes. I like that feel very much. I like swing with an organ,” says Ms. Naylor.

Some songs on the album Lucky Girl possess a very vintage feel to them such as “You’re My Favorite Person.”

“That is a song that I wrote for Art. I wrote the lyrics and the melody for it. I definitely wanted it to have that old school quirky feel to it. I am a big Blossom Dearie fan. I wanted to write something like that and in particular I wanted to write something like that for Art,” she says.

Art Khu is somewhat of a musical freak and we mean that as a compliment. This writer met him at a concert for the first time only a few years ago and at the time he indicated he had really just started dabbling with the guitar, as the piano and organ were his first instruments. Well as Jacqui Naylor enlightened us, Art Khu’s fondness for the guitar goes back more than just a few years ago, but he merely became more serious about the instrument in recent years and he delivers that same kind of elegant playing that we often associate with icons such as “Bucky” Pizzarelli.

“Ever since album four Art has been the guitarist on the albums and on the road with me.  He is just a genius. We always joke about Art is the guy that we love to hate. We love him, but wow, it is just incredible what he is capable of doing. I am convinced that if he were to pick up some other instrument and to shed on it for a year, he would be playing that. We always joke about how we don’t want him to take our jobs,” says Ms. Naylor.jacqui naylor photo 3

“Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein song, is set to George Benson’s “Breezin’,” and the result is a very uplifting tune that will encourage you to sing along, while smiling all the way.  

“The song “Breezin’,” is a song that I have loved forever. My sister used to play it when she was cleaning up the house, right before my parents came home. In part (I recorded it) because of my love for Blossom Dearie and also because it is just so quirky. I wanted to do “Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” for a long time, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with it. Then I was in the kitchen and “Breezin’,” came on and I went OH! I ran in and I told Art, hey “Breezin’,” I think works with “Surrey With A Fringe On Top.” He said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know,’ which is what he always says and then he said, ‘Oh it does work.’ I had the idea and then he confirmed that it worked and he made it work. It was a hunch and it panned out, so we got lucky there,” she says.

For the song “Since I Love You,” “Josh and Art worked really hard on the arrangement, because we really wanted that groove feel. I think they did a wonderful job of making it a floating groove with those hits in it.  I really feel that way about Art. I feel that way every day. I have an incredible life. I am a “lucky girl.” I have amazing things in my life. I have been able to do a lot of amazing things in my life, but nothing compares to loving someone,” she says.

“Dreamin’ Prayin’ Wishin’,” has more of a Pop feel to it and offers a message of hope, “I still pray like someone’s listening and I still dream like dreams can come true.” This is both an up-tempo and upbeat song and Ms. Naylor says that she intended this song to be a message of hope and to provide encouragement to others.

“I really live by those words. No matter what happens in life, if you fall down seven times, you have to get up eight times or if you fall down ninety-five you have to get up ninety-six. I see that as kind of a mission in my life. When I die, I will not look back on my life and think, I was a really great singer or I was famous or I was rich or I was any of those things. If I were to die tomorrow I would feel like I had been able to encourage some people. Maybe I encouraged some people with my voice and I think that is a gift to be able to do that. Regardless, in all of the ways in my life that is what I want to do. I strive to do it as much as I possibly can,” she says.

In the latter stages of the Lucky Girl album, Jacqui Naylor decided to cover the steamy Teddy Prendergrass song “Close The Door,” and with the lights turned down low, the family pet safely ensconced in another room, Jacqui Naylor sensually coos “Close The Door,” a song about making love with someone with whom we are in love.

“It took me a long time to be able to sing “Let me rub your back where you say it is sore,” because it is such a…I don’t know, it is a funny line to sing, but then I got into it. Those lyrics are awesome. It is about really wanting to enjoy someone. I think it is a very intimate tune, but it is also a period piece. It definitely has that shag carpet, black love, incense vibe.

“I am definitely a Teddy Prendergrass fan and when he passed away I wanted to do a song that would be a tribute to him. People really liked it and I like it, so we decided that we would do it and we would give it that old school feel with the chimes in the beginning. I usually don’t like reverb, but we put reverb in there to try and create that effect,”

Jacqui Naylor is a “Lucky Girl,” and Art Khu is a “Lucky Guy,” and we their music fans are lucky indeed that they have given us yet another splendid album, Lucky Girl. The album is available through most online retail stores and you can visit the Jacqui Naylor website at www.jacquinaylor.com

Interview by Joe Montague, all rights reserved, protected by copyright © December 2011   Return to Our Front Page

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